v. 1. Lestoire del Saint Graal. 1909.--v. 2. Lestoire de Merlin. 1908.--v. 3-5. Le livre de Lancelot del Lac. 1910-12.--v. 6. Les aventures ou la queste del Saint Graal. La mort le roi Artus. 1913.--v. 7. Supplement: Le livre d'Artus, with glossary. 1913.--[v. 8]. Index of names and places to v. I-VIII
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Evidence reported by firstname.lastname@example.org for item vulgateversionof01sommuoft on January 31, 2008: no visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1909.
October 15, 2015 Subject:
The first volume of a seminal source material for the Matter of Britain
Before Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur were the French prose romances. These were Mallory’s source material, written in Medieval French by a number of anonymous writers. They were eventually bundled together in what scholars nowadays call “the Vulgate” source. This volume is the first of those documents.
This book isn’t a translation from the Old French. Rather it is a complete reproduction of the French text with marginal summaries and glossary footnotes in English. Different parts are covered in greater or lesser depth. The translations seem accurate; H. Oskar Sommer’s scholarship is a magnitude greater than mine.
Volume 1 really sets up the Grail material that becomes relevant in later stories. Arthur and co. have little page time here. This is the story of the line of Grail Kings – Fisher Kings – from Joseph of Aramathea down to the Maimed King who triggers the Arthurian Grail Quest. It is rich in cultural references and poetic allegory that make some of it quite hard for a modern reader to understand. The Christian worldview offered in the story is somewhat filtered through Celtic myth and medieval legend.
Those looking for knights and ladies and quests might want to consider starting with the more accessible volume 2.
That said, this is an immensely valuable book to put online; and not only because second-hand copies of the 8-volume work change hands for four figures. Here are Mallory’s sources, unfiltered by his Anglocentric background, unedited to make better sense (not that Mallory always succeeded!), offering another window into Arthur’s world and the rich fantasy romances of the medieval upper classes.